Maxine Clamage

Letters to a Lost Soldier – The Ten Commandments and World War II

Dear Daddy,

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(I originally wrote in March, 1945) We were bickering about Passover and Easter while coloring eggs at a Brownies meeting.  “You’re forgetting The Girl Scout Promise,” said our leader. “We are all Americans. We obey the Ten Commandments. Think about what we have in common instead of dwelling on our differences.”

I remember what you taught me about not stealing, lying and murdering. Our leader talked about serving God and our country.  She said we wouldn’t be at war with ourselves or other countries if we obeyed the Commandment to put God first. “The German people worship the dictator Hitler who wants to replace God in their hearts and substitute the swastika for the cross.  The Japanese people worship their Emperor Hirohito as a god.” 

“We shouldn’t fight with each other, especially at this time of the year. There is room for people to celebrate Passover or Easter and you should learn and practice all of the Ten Commandments.  Please ask your parents, your pastor, priest, rabbi or your Sunday school teacher to help you,” she said.

 I’m the only one in my chapter of Brownies who doesn’t attend church or synagogue. I cry when I think of you far away in a Prisoner of War camp. No one helps me at home. Mimi is preparing food for Pesach. We don’t eat ham, pork, bacon or shellfish and that’s how I know I am Jewish. It’s OK for you to eat SPAM, Daddy, to keep alive if you are starving.

When you return from the war, Daddy, I won’t pester you.  I’ll wait until you put your book aside and then ask questions like I used to do before you went in the Army. I miss you, Daddy, because you always took the time to explain things and answer my questions.

I read the Encyclopedia Britannica and learned not to bear false witness.  My sister picks on me, calls me “Fatty, fatty two by four, can’t get through the bathroom door,” and when I cry, she tells Mimi, Bepa or Mommy that I started it. I’ll try not to cry.

Bepa says that I should obey him because he is my grandfather, but the Commandment says to Honor Your Father and Mother.  I don’t like him when he threatens to whip my sister and me with his razor strap.  Mimi is kinder and I plan to give her a Mother’s Day card because she is a good grandmother.

I know the meaning of coveting.  I won’t be jealous when my sister receives new clothes and I get her hand-me-downs.  I’ll pretend her clothes are new because they are new for me. When she complains that I get a bigger piece of cake or Mommy always gives me the chicken liver, I will trade with her to stop the bickering at home.

I don’t have control over observing the Sabbath because Mommy wants us out of the house on Saturdays so she can have some peace and quiet.  We go to the movies when the weather is too cold to play outside.  If I sit in a chair at the movies, does that count for good or bad?  When I grow up and get married, I won’t force my children to go to the movies on Saturday afternoon just to get rid of them.

I learn a lot at the movies from the newsreels about the war. The Soviet forces are only 50 miles from Berlin.  Over 25,000 American troops have crossed the Rhine and are winning the war.  Some American ex-Prisoners of War who escaped said they were falsely told that Germany was winning the war.  The Nazis wanted the Prisoners of War to lose courage and be mentally defeated.  It’s not true.  The Allies are on their way to find you and free you from slavery.

Another thing I learn from the serials and Westerns is that the good guys always win the battles with the bad guys.  You and the other American soldiers are the good guys.  I hope you win soon and come home quickly.




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